Loves Us Some Nicotine!

I want to talk about… about… um… (vape) Oh yeah, how nicotine can improve memory and cognitive function! I can guess what you’re thinking: nicotine “Noooooo!” But calm down. Nicotine (named for Jean Nicot) the French ambassador to Portugal who brought the tobacco plant back to Paris) Nicotine is a classic example of guilt by association.

But nicotine may be the best friend of aging brains. If you’re like me, and I know I am, you worry about aging and Alzheimer’s disease the first sign if which is what neurologist call MCI or Mild Cognitive Impairment. In 2012 neurologist Paul Newhouse slapped patches on 67 subjects. 33 contained a placebos and 34 delivered 15 milligrams per day nicotine. After 6 months of double blind study the nicotine group showed improvement in primary and secondary cognitive measures of attention, memory, and mental processing. It concluded that there was evidence for nicotine-induced cognitive improvement in subjects with MCI.

But the nicotine news gets better! A 1991 study in the Netherlands found that smokers had a lower incidence and later onset of and that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease decreased with increasing daily number of cigarettes smoked. Truth be told, the neuroprotective effects of nicotine have been experimentally documented for years.

Cigarette smoking harms almost every organ in your body. Smokers risk cancer, emphysema birth defects and probably acne. But nicotine delivery by other means, not so much. As far as I can tell the biggest risk of nicotine is becoming addicted to something that protects your brain.

But what do I know? Thank goodness I’m not a doctor and have no qualifications, pretentions or interest in giving anybody medical advice. Anybody who’d take medical advice from a comedian may already have mild cognitive impairment. But there is good data out there by grownup neuroscientists providing reasons to take another look at our old buddy… um… niee… ni – (vape) oh yeah nicotine!

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